Since the start of the #MeToo movement, countless stories have come to light. While filled with many of those stories, Bombshell isn’t interested in just letting victims be heard. It aims to expose those responsible for the suffering too. Just as the title suggests, this film is a politically explosive anatomy of a toxic workplace culture, that for some time, was considered to be normal.
At its core, Bombshell is a drama that embraces the ridiculousness of its truths. In fact, in terms of style and tone I think there’s only one other film that comes close to, and that is Adam McKay's The Big Short. Throughout the film, there are plenty of moments where characters break the fourth wall to break down certain terms or concepts to the audience, and not once does any of it distract or detract from the film’s message. The in-your-face politics, on the other hand, does. Jay Roach is no stranger to political fodder though, having helmed both Recount and Game Change for HBO, but he handles the serious subject matter here with the levity of an Austin Powers film; a franchise he’s also responsible for.
Based on a true story, the film takes place right before the allegations against Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, surface. As former Fox News TV host Gretchen Carlson leads the charge against him, current Fox News star Megyn Kelly debates whether to join her cause, and ambitious newcomer Kayla struggles to keep her harassment a secret to avoid scrutiny.
Between their thoughts and desires, the three main characters represent the news industry’s past, present, and future respectively. Gretchen wants to tell stories that make a difference as opposed to just spewing the channel's hate speech. Megyn wants continued success and sees no reason to do anything to threaten that. And Kayla just wants a shot to do anything. As they all come to find out though, everything comes at a cost.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, and Margot Robbie are all incredible as the three respective leads. What I loved the most about this film was the fact that they rarely interact with each other. For the most part, the film is the same story told from three different perspectives.
Although Robbie has received the most praise for her performance, I personally think that Charlize Theron is far superior as Megyn Kelly. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of her, but she does such a fine job that it actually made me empathize with her. With the help of some pretty impressive prosthetics, she literally disappears into the role - more on that later though.
John Lithgow also shines as the sleazy Roger Ailes. His ruthlessness, even as a frail old man, is unforgettable. I cannot fathom why he's not in this year’s Awards conversation.
Most of the other performances may not be as compelling, but the overall casting is spot-on. Many of the other male and female actors look identical to their real-life counterparts, which really helps sell the story. And that’s without makeup too!
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
While the acting is a major highlight, the real star is undoubtedly the makeup and prosthetics. As mentioned before, Charlize Theron is almost unrecognizable as Megyn Kelly. It’s uncanny. Lithgow’s transformation is also noteworthy. I really love how the makeup of the film is used less in its traditional sense to cover things up, but more as an instrument to strengthen the performances.
Special effects are used minimally. Occasionally, we’ll see an actor superimposed onto archived footage. When he’s not using effect though, one of Roach's most impressive technical feats is the way he's seamlessly able to switch between archival footage of the real people involved in the story and the actors playing them. There are several moments where the film cuts between footage that actually aired on television and a reenactment of that footage, and each time it’s nearly impossible to see the difference.
In terms of design, a majority of the film takes place within the confines of Fox News, and just like everything else, the set is very convincing. Like most newsrooms, there’s a ton of clutter and chaos and that makes it most believable.
“Someone Has To Speak Up. Someone Has To Get Mad.”
Genre: Biography. Drama.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
When I think about the music of the film, there’s only one sequence where it really stands out. Halfway through the film, all three of the women accidentally converge in an elevator for what turns out to be the only time. Despite knowing each other, as each one boards, none of them speak. Simultaneously, there’s a piece of traditional elevator music that begins to play. Gradually, it becomes distorted, heightening the suspense as to whether the women will confront one another. In addition to being the only scene where the sound shines, it’s also one of the film’s best moments.
Bombshell is good. It’s a timely, albeit familiar, film. It’s focus on politics does occasionally weaken the film’s message, but beneath the painstaking performances and marvelous makeup lies a story about power; the power we let others have over us, and the power we forget that we always possess.